Pets May Be Banned on Canadian Planes, U.S. Could be Next

Pets May Be Banned on Canadian Planes, U.S. Could be Next
If pets are banned on planes in Canada, is the U.S. next?

For reasons I personally don't exactly understand, a new resolution was adopted in St. John's Canada on Tuesday,  August 23,  from the Canadian Medical Association recommending a ban of all pets on airplanes (except for certified service animals) traveling inside the cabin. According to the doctors, their concern are for passengers with allergies.

However, as allergists have told me over the years: The dander and pet fur which causes the problem doesn't fly off and hit people in the face. The allergic passenger would have to pet the animal. Pets are kept under the seat in front of the passenger flying, and not to be taken out of the carrier.

In homes, over the course of days, weeks, months and years of a pet living there - the dander and pet fur sticks to furniture, walls, carpeting, etc. On an airplane, even a longer flight, this concern isn't applicable because the pet isn't there long enough, and the pet isn't wandering freely.

Actually, as a point of fact,  with cats (which indeed are more of an issue for more people with allergies than dogs), people are allergic to a protein (FelD1) in the feline saliva. When cats groom themselves, this sticky protein sticks to their dander and fur. In this instance, it's all contained in the cat carrier, however.

Still, despite the facts, the Canadian Medical Association maintains: "Pets travelling by air belong in the cargo hold, not the cabin, where their dander could irritate passengers' allergies."

No mention is made that it may be dangerous for pets to travel in the cargo hold, The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) recommends against pets traveling in cargo, if at all possible. Cargo holds are supposed to be temperature controlled, and airline workers are supposed to oversee the pets' travels. However, mistakes too frequently seem to occur.

The editorial is timed to put pressure on the Canadian Transportation Agency, which is about to rule on whether people with allergies should be considered disabled under the Canadian Transportation Act and appropriately accommodated while traveling.

The agency is currently reviewing four complaints from passengers who suffered serious allergic reactions while flying within the past year. Last spring, a Regina passenger flying with WestJet required medical attention after suffering a severe allergic reaction to a dog on board.

My guess is that the passenger would have never complained if he was unaware of the dog. I am in no way suggested pet allergies are "psychological;" I know that is not the case. I am suggesting that contained in their carriers, and for the relatively short period of time they are there, it's exceedingly unlikely for the necessary pet fur and dander to make any impact whatsoever (unless the animal is removed from the carrier, or a passenger interacts with the animal).

Still the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is standing firm: According to printed reports, the doctors have said if the "If the agency (Canadian Transportation Agency) does not rule for the passengers, the House of Commons standing committee on health, which heard a briefing on this issue last fall, should take up the cause. People with allergies should be able to fly without placing their health at risk and must not be prevented from travelling for fear of being confined close to a pet." 

It seems clear that the CMA has taken up their own cause. My concern - if this new No Pets Allowed rule flies in Canada, then pets won't be flying there, or perhaps soon in the U.S.

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    Steve Dale

    Dog/Cat Behavior Consultant; pet advocate; broadcaster, journalist

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